This Soviet-Era Handmade Book is Literally a Photo Copy

I found this book in an old books department in the Russian city of Novorossiysk. This sample of Soviet samizdat was supposedly made in the 1970s and is literally a photo copy of a 19th-century book.

In the Soviet time, many books were banned by the state for lots of strange reasons. Sometimes these were books suspected to question the regime; in other cases, they were not allowed into the circulation just because some censor had some personal issues with them.

This created a whole underground industry of book copying from handwritten tomes like in the medieval era to some more technologically advanced solutions. Books were copied everywhere, including the top-secret military research facilities.

Underground copying professionals knew how many page copies different brands of typewriters were powerful enough to make.

Oftentimes a rare book was given to a person for one night only. Which meant you either spend the night copying and return the book in time or risk not being allowed to have anything interesting in the future because you were late.

I don’t think this book was banned or something. Even while Soviet authorities weren’t happy with their citizens reading religious or esoteric texts. But it’s an excellent sample of one of the copying methods.

The pages of a 19th-century book about palm-reading were photographed and pasted in a school workbook.

It seems to me that was precisely the case of a book given for one night only. Otherwise, the new owner would definitely have reshot done of the skewed and overexposed frames.

This book is one of the reasons I always try to use a chance to visit bookshops, antique stores, and flea markets, even in the smallest towns.

What were your most bizarre bookish finds?

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